Christmas 2013 … we were so lucky to spend Christmas and New Years in Australia. We had a fabulous vacation .. that started a bit rocky.
By “rocky” I mean we almost spent our holiday in jail. I want to journal all about our adventures in Australia, but I must start at the beginning, when we first landed foot in Australia’s Gold Coast Airport.
We were scheduled to leave Singapore at 10:30 pm, and fly all night to Australia. We chose an airline that gives you the option to purchase their food, and since we all know what airline food tastes like, we opted to not eat it. Instead we hit up a Subway while still in the airport. We each ordered a foot long. Maria and I did not eat an entire 12 inches of sub, instead we wrapped up our remaining sandwich with the intentions to eat it on the plane, or to give it to Shane and Cale, our ever growing and always hungry boys. We specially ordered our sandwiches without veges or condiments so that it wouldn’t get mushy or icky. It was just sub and turkey. Plain Jane.
So, with said sandwiches in our bags, we boarded Scoot airlines, and all five us fell asleep almost immediately, awaking when our plane touched down on Australian soil. Trent woke a few minutes before the rest of us, and he filled in the mandatory immigration forms. No big deal, right? Except that he forgot we had sandwiches in our bag, and checked off “NO we are not carrying any food into the country”.
Shaking the sleep from our eyes, we went through the immigrations line, where we were asked if we had any food with us, and we all replied that we did not. We go through to the baggage pick up area, and another officer is asking everyone if they had food with them, and again, we said “NO”.
We completely forgot our half uneaten Subway sandwiches.
We gather up our bags, round the corner, where we are told to stand in a line and drop our bags. Then comes a drug sniffing dog, who sniffs our bags. The kids and I were oohing and awing, such a cute little beagle, who I see sniffing Marias bag, then sit down. That dog was signaling that there is something in Maria’s bag! My heart rate soars, I’m wracking my brains, terrified that someone put drugs into her bag when she we were all sleeping. The dogs handler grabs Marias bag and accuses her, “You have meat in there, don’t you”.
Maria and I remember at the exact same time … our Subway sandwiches! Dear Lord. Yes, we have meat in our bags! We have food in our bags!!
My heart is pumping so hard that my vision is effected, I’m literally seeing white. The dog then sniffs my bag, sits down, and now Maria and I are pulled out of line. We are in big trouble. Trent and the boys follow us, all of us unsure of what will happen next.
An immigrations officer then pulls out a scale, takes our subway sandwiches and weighs them. I am not kidding, he weighed our sandwiches on a little food scale, one that he pulled out from underneath his counter. He weighed them! You cannot make this stuff up, really.
We each were subject to a fine of $66,000 and/or 10 years in prison! TEN YEARS IN PRISON! For a half-eaten day-old plain Subway sandwich! Maria would be 24 years old by time I would get out. My boys will be 23. Oh my word, I’ll be nearly 60 years old! Who would take care of the kids for the next ten years? What about our dream of holding a koala bear? Would the kids stay in Australia and wait for us? Go back to Singapore? To America? Hudson? Pittsburgh? To Zelienople to my aging parents? To Iowa to live out the next 10 years with my sister, her husband and their five boys? To my sister-in-law, who is now an empty nester and happily working on building up her business? Oh my gosh, I’m going to jail. So many thoughts going through my head at one time. Oh my gosh, I’m going to jail. I’m going to jail. Jail. Jail.
He then very seriously tells us that we are lucky that the sandwiches are half eaten, because if they weighed much more, the penalty would be the highest possible for us. He then hands us a piece of paper, where he circles the penalty we are really facing, a $340.00 fine. Because Maria is a minor, Trent and I would be receiving her penalty as well. My thoughts were jumbled, hitting my brain at warp speed. I looked at my dear husband, who was trying to explain to the officer that we just forgot, we literally forgot we had those sandwiches. He was taking the blame for filling out the forms wrong, saying that the rest of us were sleeping when he did so. But we each had signed off on our immigration cards, and yes, we had technically lied. We lied three times about not having food with us, when in fact we did. I looked at my sweet boys, who were clearly confused at the situation, not understanding the seriousness of our predicament. I looked at my beautiful daughter, hair still messed up from sleeping on the plane, arms crossed and looking pretty mad at this delay. In what seemed like slow motion, I took in the faces of my sweet sweet family, and did what I had to do: I cried.
My eyes glassed over and a big tear rolled right out, down my cheek. Shane looked at me, shocked to see his momma cry, Cale looked concerned, and Maria was in complete disbelief. Oh yes, later I would be teased mercilessly about my tears. I had seen enough late night episodes of “Locked Up Abroad” to know that I was in big trouble. I was terrified. So yes, I own it. I cried.
I am not sure if this helped or not, or if it was Trent’s apologies, but before we knew it, we were given a severe warning, a virtual slap in the face, told we better not ever ever ever lie to customs officers again, enjoy your holiday, bye bye. Oh, and from now on, you are on the “Australian Watch List.”
The five of us grabbed our suitcases and bags and took off so fast, fearing that he would have a change of heart and make my kids orphans.
When we rounded the corner, safely out of danger, we all looked at each other, giggled a little bit, laughed a little bit, all in complete disbelief at what just happened.
And we have this little souvenir too!
And that my friends, was the beginning of our Australian Adventure, Christmas 2013 & New Years 2014.